Posts Tagged ‘Perfection’

false_advertising-img-685I remember well the day that my oldest daughter was faced with the realities of false boasting of advertisers.

It was the Butterfly Barbie. She was shown on the TV advertisements flying through the air (not a hair out of place), her sparkling wings looking gossamer soft. What we brought home from the store required human assistance to soar, and her soft-looking wings had a plastic backing. A great learning opportunity that purchase was for this budding consumer.

False boasting of advertisers have always existed. Whether it is a toy, a hamburger, wrinkle cream or weight loss plan these cons are everywhere, leading people, and their hard-earned money, astray.

It is such a relief that false boasts do not exist in the Christian community …

Go visit a Christian book store, and you will find the equivalent of a ‘self help’ section. Attend a Christian conference, and you will leave believing that ‘you’ can do anything. Show up at a Christ-centered church on any given Sunday, and you will be reminded of the boundless power of the Holy Spirit within you.

So, are those examples of (well-intended) false boasting?

Lets check the king of understanding what it is to boast …

The apostle Paul (I like him),  he was a man who refused to boast about what he did, what he would do or what he could do. As a matter of fact 2 Corinthians 12:5 tells us what he would and would not boast about :

“I will not boast about myself,
except about my weaknesses.”

Hum, ever been to church and heard someone get up and boast about their weaknesses?

Ever been to a Christian conference where the key note speaker addressed weaknesses?

Ever bought a how-to book at the Christian bookstore that explained how to share your weaknesses?

I’m doubting that any of us has experienced that sort of boasting.

Maybe this is why, when non-believers are asked why they do not go to church, a common response is hypocrisy. According to and article in USA Today, a “survey of U.S. adults who don’t go to church, even on holidays, finds 72% say “God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists.” But just as many (72%) also say the church is “full of hypocrites.””

Are we being humbly real?

Or are we pretending that we have it all together?

Our friend, Paul, goes on to explain his rationale regarding boasting about his weaknesses in verses 6-10 :

“Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Don’t we all have a thorn in our flesh?

We do not know what Paul’s thorn was, but we know that Paul used this painful (thorns hurt) thing to keep him depending on God to be his strength in weakness.

I’m not sure that I could have such a positive perspective on pain … I’m not sure that Paul did ALL THE TIME … but I do know that when I am struggling, when I am in pain, when I am hurting, it is then that I rely more on God.

Maybe others need to see, not the lie of perfect lives, but the reality of pain …

and that it can draw us to our heavenly Father, so that His “power is made perfect in weakness”

Boast in this :

we are weak

He is perfect

There’s nothing false about that!

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As I read the blog posts of others I feel so … normal. I realize that my thoughts and feelings are shared by others. I realize that that I am not alone in my uniqueness (if that is not too much of a contradiction). I realize that there are others who see and feel and experience and think similarly.

I also learn from the honest revelations of others. The lessons that they have learned.

Recently I received a new post to read by the wife of a high school friend.

Rhonda Bulmer is a wife, a mom, a writer (published), a runner, and a child of God (I know there is more to her, but I do not know her that well). I LOVE her writings (unlike myself, this lady knows grammar, so her writings are actually readable). I think that she and I could definitely be kindred spirits, and so I could not wait to read what she had written.

As I read my heart and soul were touched. She expressed so well her struggle with the expectation of perfectionism. Especially when it comes to living within the Christian community.

The most common criticism of Christians is that they/we are hypocrites. That is true, and not. The fact is that we are humans, and it is in our humanity that we fail, that we fall that we sin and disappoint.

Rhonda says it so well, “sometimes love is an act of faith.”

A Loving Argument

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Our North American culture (and probably many other cultures, but I only know this one) aims to eliminate that which results in disorder or flaws, and replace it with … perfection.

I think this all started with erasers, which led to white out, which led to the delete key. From our earliest beginnings we have been trying to deny what is reality in living a life of personal choices … that we are going to make mistakes. And from our first bad choice, in the garden of Eden, we mere humans have been making mistakes, and living with the consequences of them.

Everything within us longs for good predictability, with only good surprises. Good surprises like a bonus on our paycheck, or a storm day resulting in no school, or all of our kids being out of the house at the same time, or all of our kids being home at the same time … time of life changes what defines good surprises for us …

And that is true too, that our phase of life, changes our perspectives on what is a good surprise, or a good interruption. Our phase of life also changes how we see perfection. When we look at a newborn we delight in their chubby legs, but when we look at our adult cellulite (and lets face it, at a certain age, it is a given, heck, even JLo has cellulite … but, I digress, again) we shudder. When we are dating we look at our significant other as flawless perfection, yet only a few years (okay, days) into the marriage, we start to pick their flaws out.

So, is there perfection? Is it possible for perfection for one to be perfection for another? Maybe, just maybe, what we see as perfection is simply the reality that perfection is in the eyes of the beholder?

When we start to recognize the lessons of disorder and imperfections, then we start to learn how to live. Also, if, we could eliminate the imperfect from our lives, what might we miss out on?

Without touching that hot stove, as a child, we might not have learned the need to prevent burns, nor might we have learned that our mother’s try to protect us from harm.

Without the experience of failing a test at school, we might not have learned that studying helps us to succeed in school.

Without the experience of having problems with those most near to us, we would not have had the opportunity to work through the problems, towards more healthy, prosperous relationships.

Sometimes what we planned just does not go as we had thought it would. When that happens we can be left with such discouragement. We long for the normal, the amazing. But, life often substitutes unsweetened tea for sweet tea, and we feel as though our thirst for our dreams will never be quenched.

One of the things I love about being the wife of a pastor, is that I attend more than the average number of weddings, funerals and anniversaries of fifty years and more. On the one hand I get to attend the weddings of people who still have every dream and hope of amazing, flawless marital bliss. On the other I get to attend the significant anniversaries of couples who know what it is to keep on going, even when the amazing is substituted for boring or just getting by, flawless is substituted for bad noises and bad smells, and marital bliss is replaced with disappointments, sorrows and struggles.

Then, to culminate my experiences of weddings and anniversaries, are the funerals. When I sit at a funeral or memorial of person who has lived a long life. I read the life story of the deceased, or see a slide show of their life, and it is then, in the mundane of real life, real commitments, real work that I see real perfection. Not the visually, outward perfection that our society tells us to strive for, but inward, character rich perfection of a life well lived, with and for those around them.

THAT is the perfection that I want to strive for … and I will do so rather than occupying my time pondering cellulite, wrinkles and age spots.

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“I am so fat.”

“I am ugly.”

“I hate my nose (substitute any other body part)”

“I am so flat.”

These are the “truths” that many, if not all teen girls believe about themselves. Most often these “truths” are not truths, but lies that have grown from a near microscopic-sized seed, planted by someone else, who had had no idea how immense the growth would be.

The growth of that seed results in the decay and destruction of the heart and soul of young and developing young woman. As it’s lies take root in the young lady, it pushes aside and alters the intended growth and development of that young lady. She becomes something that she was never intended to become. She increases in insecurity, she decreases in her understanding of her own abilities and value. She looses her own self in the lie.

Sometimes the far-reaching growth of these lies completely envelopes her heart, and changes the path of her life. Sometimes it hides deep within her, and the cracks it creates in her soul make it difficult for her to live with herself, even though the damage done is not seen by the eyes of anyone around her. Sometimes, it’s damaging overgrowth forces her to look for ways to escape who she thinks she is, and she does things to her body that can damage her and change her life forever.

Teen girls are the masters of comparison. They compare themselves with other girls. They compare themselves with celebrities on the covers of magazines. They compare themselves with girls who have a guys hand to hold.

As I walk the halls of the high school where I work, the church I attend, the malls where I shop, and the house where I live, I see the eyes of the girls who believe the lies. In those eyes I see the insecurities that have taken root from the lies that have been believed … hook, line and sinker.

It breaks my heart to see these broken vessels. Not because they are not beautiful, but because their ability to see and know their own beauty, their own abilities, has been suffocated by the lies.

If I could tell a teen girl anything, it would be that they are a one in a million gift. That the package that they contain, that they are, is of more value than any rare jewel. That, as they live their life as the precious gift that they are created to be, they are empowered to unwrap each layer of their gift, to reveal the purpose, and passion and beauty that only comes from within.

I would tell them : “Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. I have loved you with an everlasting love…I hold you in the palm of my hands. In my sight you are precious…do not be afraid I am with you.” Says the Lord God. (Isaiah 43:1-4)

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